‘Millennium’ Turns 20: Backstreet Boys Recall Partying With Swedish Princess While Making Album in 1999
Twenty years on from their record-breaking smash record Millennium, the Backstreet Boys are reflecting on creating the masterpiece during the summertime in Sweden – in between partying with a princess.
The boy band released the 13-times Platinum record on May 18, 1999. They recall pinching themselves as they arrived at hit-making factory Cheiron Studios, where they created pop anthems like “I Want It That Way” and “Larger Than Life” alongside Max Martin and his team. While the band had already worked with Martin on previous songs, member Howie Dorough says it still felt surreal to start work on their highly-anticipated sophomore album.
“I remember going into the studio and my anxiety and blood pressure felt really high,” Dorough reflects. “But it was just a really cool, overwhelming feeling of, ‘Wow. We’re really doing this. We’re signed with a label and working with a producer, who’s really well-known for stuff with Ace of Base and 3T. We’re doing something!’”
“I was definitively excited and honored to finally have a chance to sing lead on ‘I Want It That Way,’ as well,” he adds.
“We were out on Stockholm, just living the dream with Max and those guys,” AJ McLean agrees. “There’s so many amazing memories and Stockholm will always have a special place in our hearts because that’s where everything started. That’s where the magic started.”
It’s also where the quintet formed lifelong friendships with their collaborators during long studio sessions. Dorough became particularly close with Martin’s collaborator, Rami Yacoub, who would later become one of his groomsmen – alongside another Millennium songwriter, Andrew Fromm, who penned “I Need You Tonight.”
While the band worked hard, they also played hard. Dorough recounts memories of house parties and wild nights spent out on the town alongside royalty.
“I have so many great, fond memories of recording in Sweden. It was one of my favorite places for such a long time, especially in the summertime because it’s so beautiful with all the water and we used to hang out with a bunch of really cool people – even Princess Victoria, who’s going to eventually be the Queen [ of Sweden],” he shares. “We partied, went out, got drinking and had a house party one time with one of her best friends who was kind of liking me.”
“She's a sweetheart,” he continues. “Kevin, myself and Brian actually went over and gave Max Martin an award about two years ago, and I totally reconnected with her. It was cool as I hadn't seen her in probably 10 years.”
While the friendships the group formed during the Millennium era remain strong, the music was just as life-changing.
Millennium broke the record for the highest first week album sales, with fans rushing record stores to snap up 1.13 million copies of the CD. The group has since gone on to release their chart-topping 10th studio album, DNA, win eight Grammy nominations, receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, wrap a record-breaking two-year residency in Las Vegas and launch their own exhibit, Backstreet Boys: The Experience, at the Grammy Museum. On May 11, they kicked off their DNA World Tour – during which they still belt out Millennium hits – which will arrive in the U.S. in July.
Looking back, Dorough says he never imagined those Swedish sessions would have such monumental impact.
“Not at all,” says the father of two, who is preparing to release his solo family album, Which One Am I?, on July 12. “I always hoped and dreamed about it. I was a huge fan of Michael Jackson and Madonna and all these different artists like Boyz II Men and New Edition. I hoped to have a career as big as those artists one day, but never fathomed I'd come close to it.”
“It's been a blessing, 26 years,” he continues. “We have an amazing fan base and we owe a lot to those who have supported us through the thick and thin – both when radio loved us and when radio wouldn’t touch us. It's nice to have this second coming back. How many artists have had a chance to do this, to have a second wind? It's kind of rare and to know that we’re being embraced again is nice.”
“It’s pretty mind-boggling to know that we [had] a Top 10 single on Hot AC on Top 40 after 25 years,” adds McLean, who is also preparing to release a solo project, his country-inspired record, Long Road. “That’s a huge testament to the music, the fans and to each other. Life is good, man!”